Netanyahu opposition must stop resorting to foul language

Netanyahu opposition must stop resorting to foul language

About thirty years ago, the topic of incitement to hatred was unavoidable. The mainstream media reported, sometimes daily, the statements and actions of opponents of the Oslo Accords. Placards and slogans with virulent content were put forward. The accusation of “traitor!” was condemned and castigated by all.

It turned out that much of this incitement was the work of a poorly supervised government employee, an agent provocateur under contract to the General Security Service. In fact, it was part of his job. This agent, whose code name was “Champagne,” was allowed to act as he did and was even released after several arrests with the complicity of a future president of the Supreme Court of Israel when she was attorney general.

In March 2020, Shikma Bressler launched the agitprop group Black Flags, following Uri Misgav’s call on Facebook on March 15. Spin-off groups were later created, including “Crime Minister,” “No Way,” “Israel Arise,” and “UnXeptable.” They eventually focused on protesting the judicial reform agenda, but their true essence became apparent when Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz formed a coalition government.

The common denominator of the group is an extreme, even pathological, hatred of Prime Minister Netanyahu, whom they consider a dictator. They hate him. He is repugnant to them. It is his personality that they hate.

After the December 2022 elections and his ascension, once again, to the post of prime minister, anger and frustration have resurfaced, this time with greater intensity and with discrediting attacks of a personal nature; some, no doubt, were sparked by the tweets of his son, Yair, and the perceived personality of his wife, Sara, whom they despise.

(LR): Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, War Minister Benny Gantz on June 8, 2024 (credit: FLASH90, POOL)

Judicial reform is no longer on the agenda. Benny Gantz joined the government after October 7 and remained there until recently. The slogan “Together in Unity” was adopted by all and the atmosphere seemed to have brightened. However, the protest movement, which had been dormant, was only latent and has resumed with renewed vigor.

The first step was to transform the Brothers in Arms group, which had previously lobbied for refusal to serve, into a welfare society that provided food to soldiers and, above all, to the displaced population of the Gaza envelope area. President Isaac Herzog even decided to designate them as a separate organization. The second step was the apparent dissolution of the “Kaplan Force” rallies and marches that clogged highways and intersections.

Yet the ongoing war, and in particular the continuation of a situation in which Hamas refuses to release hostages, alive or dead, or even provide details about their health conditions, has established the link between the so-called “Kaplanites” and many hostage families.

Protesting is an essential act of democracy. Citizen participation is not limited to an election day, but continues to ensure the proper functioning of government. Democracy, however, implies responsibility. Constantly blocking roads is detrimental to public welfare. A balance must be struck.

Nor should we refrain from being firm. A policy of inflammatory speech can only endanger property and people. Insensitive and threatening speech can provoke not only anger, but also violence. Emotional speech can lead to uncontrollable movements and actions, such as the throwing of a flaming torch at a mounted policeman on April 2 or the disused grenade last week at Netanyahu’s house in Caesarea. After all, this is what the left accused the right of in 1994-1995.

In February 2023, Uri Yaakov, a former media aide to Ehud Olmert, was filmed spray-painting “Bibi is a traitor” on a Tel Aviv boulevard. In late December 2023, Guy Tzur, former head of the IDF Ground Forces Command, called Netanyahu a “traitor” from a rally podium and repeated the call months later, adding, “He is an enemy of the people.”

Last November, rapper Rami Matan, outside Netanyahu’s residence on Gaza Street in Jerusalem, used the term “traitor.” At recent rallies demanding that the government accept Hamas’s demands to hopefully free the hostages, Ayala Metzger, a relative of the kidnapped victim, shouted at Netanyahu and his wife: “We’re waiting for you with a noose. That’s what you deserve.” Another family member, Noam Dan, yelled that Netanyahu leaves “the legacy of a mass murderer. He’s a war criminal.”

FINALLY, YOTAM Guttman’s tweet even provoked a reaction from President Herzog.

On June 30, after a television interview, Iris, the mother of Yotam Chaim, a hostage mistakenly shot by an IDF sniper, was attacked by Guttman, who in July 2023 had called for an end to volunteering in the reserves. Iris spoke out on behalf of the unit. Guttman wrote: “She is unbearable. A vile Bibist who has been beaming since her son was shot. I am glad this was made easy for her.”

Oddly, on May 9, he tweeted: “Anyone who comes to Kaplan and insults the families of the hostages (i.e. the pro-Netanyahu counter-protesters) is not my brother, and I do not want any unity with them.”

On January 24, The Jerusalem Post Analyst Herb Keinon asked: “Will political rivals stop being ‘traitors’?” President Herzog called in November 2021 – and in April of the same year – for a ban on the use of the word “traitor.” Someone isn’t listening. And that applies to all sides of the public square.

Freed hostage shares thoughts on PM

Tami Metzger, a freed hostage whose kidnapped husband Yoram was declared dead in early June, called the Netanyahu government “heartless.” She was later invited to appear on Channel 12’s Ofira & Levinson show, where she said, “I’m not ashamed to say that the first thought I had after I left Gaza was that if I could, I would shoot (Netanyahu) in the head.”

To oppose a political rival, it is not necessary to use inflammatory language. To campaign for a cause, it is not necessary to say bad things to your opponent. Bad and poisonous language corrupts a person’s politics. It can harm and cause harm. It must stop.

The author is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.